By Chris Schisler
The Baltimore Ravens take on the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday and they better win because it’s the day before my birthday. That’s not actually why they better win, but for me, it works. Getting serious for a bit, let’s talk about this game. Here are four predictions and a score for the purple-on-purple crime that is Ravens vs. Vikings.
1. Lamar Jackson has 400 total yards
The Baltimore Ravens have to realize that they have five wins for one specific reason. It’s Lamar Jackson is the MVP of the NFL. Jackson is the key to everything and he’s going to take center stage against the Vikings. Lamar Jackson is the hardest worker at the quarterback position and he’s had an extra week to stew on a loss. This means he’s going to come out ready. I expect Jackson to be on his A-game. This is how he operates. When he thinks he has to turn on the jets, he does it.
The Minnesota Vikings don’t have the strongest defense in the NFL. The Vikings give up 367 yards per game. They give up an average of 246.1 yards per contest. Jackson has thrown for over 230 yards in all but one game this season.
Let’s say he has 300 passing yards on Sunday. Let’s give him 100 yards on the ground. Remember Sam Darnold picked up 48 rushing yards against Minnesota earlier this season. Jackson can double that and he doesn’t need much help from the Vikings’ defense. In a game where Kyler Murray didn’t have to really run the football because he had 400 yards in the air, Murray had 31 yards on the ground. I expect Jackson to be feeling it on Sunday. When Jackson brings his A-game he’s good for 60 rushing yards at a minimum. Give him 100.
2. Rashod Bateman takes over
The Ravens have a lot of matchup problems for the opponent. It’s a sentence that was once just a dream, but now it’s a reality. The Ravens have Marquise Brown playing like a number one wide receiver. They have Mark Andrews playing like the best tight end in the NFL. Say what you want about Devin Duvernay, James Proche, and even Josh Oliver, but they all have skills that can get them chances to catch the football. The defense has a lot to worry about.
Rashod Bateman could emerge as the third weapon that defenses have to make a priority. Bateman has an incredible opportunity with all the attention rightfully going to Brown and Andrews and a passing game that attacks the whole field. It is also worth noting that Sammy Watkins hasn’t fully recovered from his injury. Bateman could have a real breakout game. If he does it’s going to break the Vikings’ defense.
Bateman had three receptions for 80 yards against the Cincinnati Bengals. Two things are true of Bateman’s start to his NFL career. First, when he gets called on it usually goes well. Secondly, he gets targets because he’s winning off the line and he’s creating separation with good route running. He could be the X-Factor in every game moving forward. Let’s put him down for six receptions for 120 yards and two touchdowns. That sounds fun and it’s a situation that could help towards those lofty numbers.
3. The Ravens bend but don’t break
Don Martindale is going to have to adjust his defensive game plan. Overall, what the Ravens have been doing isn’t working and Baltimore ranks last in passing defense. To quote the bad boss with grey hair in the Christmas movie Elif “That does not happen!”
Martindale will still lean towards being aggressive. He just has to realize that this defense can’t keep getting gashed. Justin Jefferson and Adam Thelin are going to get some tough completions that will extend drives for the Vikings. If you thought Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins were hard to do battle with, just wait for this week. With the matchup favoring the Vikings’ receivers more than the Ravens’ defensive backs, Martindale will simply try to keep everything in front of the defense.
Ultimately the biggest problem for the Vikings will be the Ravens putting points on the board. If the defense isn’t perfect it’s going to be okay, because the offense is going to rock it. The defense just has to play a solid game and not break when it matters most.
4. The Ravens run game gets back on track
If Lamar Jackson has 100 yards on the ground it will be a big boost for the run game overall. If the Vikings have trouble covering the Ravens’ weapons, they’ll be unable to commit extra bodies for run defense. Should the Ravens run up the score, they’re going to run the ball more. A lot of things point in a positive direction for the run game.
Baltimore Ravens win 41-24
I have a strong feeling about this game. It can go one way or the other and it’s on the Ravens to make the right decision. My confidence in John Harbaugh and Lamar Jackson has me feeling a Ravens win. Let’s see a ticked-off Ravens team that’s done some soul searching get the win.